Ensight, Extreme Visualization software

As a software vendor developing cutting-edge post-processing, visualization and animation software, CEI had a new release of EnSight 9.1 in 2010. Aric Meyer, Asia Marketing Director of CEI, agreed to an interview of e-works to talk about the product development, marketing strategies and so on.

Aric Meyer, Asia Marketing Director of CEI

Aric Meyer, Asia Marketing Director of CEI

Aric Meyer's blog: http://blog.e-works.net.cn/523120

Wang yang: Please brief introduce your career experience and CAE working experience?
Aric Meyer: I've been working for CEI, which is focused on the CAE market, since 2009.  Prior to that I was an M.S. Physics student at North Carolina State University. Prior to this I ran my own import and retail company for products made in China.  And before that I worked as a physics teacher in the United States and an English teacher in China.  It was when I was living in China that I met my wife, in Suzhou.  Returning to China was one of my life goals, which was realized by joining CEI and setting up the Shanghai office. I am now making full use of my diverse skills in my current work.

Wang yang: What’s your current main job function in China market?
Aric Meyer: Currently, my main job is to develop our strategy in Asia. To find the right partners to work with, to determine which tasks our partners should do and which CEI should perform directly, to figure out what the market potential is for us in China and which markets we should focus on. I am also responsible for implementing all the decisions we make.
Our product is well accepted in HPC and CAE fields in Americas and Europe, but we were late getting into China.  In the rest of Asia we've been depending on the sales and marketing activities of our distributors and that has been successful to the point where CEI wants to invest more in the region.

Wang yang: What is CEI’s development situation in China market? During developing in China market, what(which thing) do you think is the biggest harvest?
Aric Meyer: We are still at a very early stage of development. We entered China very late, though CEI was founded in 1994, we did not have a distributor in China until 2005. I was happy to discover that many people in China already knew about EnSight, especially those in the CFD field. We have had reasonable success in China for such a short time, but no single achievement stands out.  However the most promising development in China is the establishment of the CEI office in Shanghai in 2010, from which we think the partnerships we have already established and new partnerships on the horizon will flow.

Wang yang: I noticed CEI has a new release EnSight 9.1, please introduce the new version's spotlight feature? What are the big improvements?
Aric Meyer: We have a major release every year. EnSight 9.1 was released in January. The main new feature is volume rendering, which is a very powerful way to view entire volumes. We are the first major commercial software to support volume rendering in the CAE industry. Volume rendering works equally well for CFD and FEA. It's really amazing how easy it is to make a stunning, and very useful image using volume rendering the way it has been implemented in EnSight. In version 9.1 there were also many minor changes to the user interface, which make using EnSight easier and more productive. In June, an update to 9.1 will be released. EnSight will support units. Units can be read in from supported results files, and automatically added to legends. More units capabilities will be added in the future.
The other major development was EnSight CFD 2.0 which came out at the same time as EnSight 9.1.  The significant thing about this product is that it includes a free version of the software and a lower price point for those who need CFD post-processing but don't need the full power of our EnSight product.  This will allow us to serve everyone from the most basic CFD user at no cost, to the mainstream with EnSight, to the highest end HPC supercomputer user with EnSight Gold and EnSight DR.

Wang yang: As CAE company that focus on specific fields, comparing to those big general CAE software company (such as MSC, Ansys, Altair), what are the difference in orientation? Comparing to them, what characteristic do you think EnSight has?
Aric Meyer: Most CAE companies, large or small, focus on solvers and/or pre-processors and include post-processing as an afterthought. EnSight does only post-processing. There are two consequences to this that I want to point out. One is that companies that develop and sell solvers must put a lot of effort into comparing their predictions to live experiments, to the competitors performance and features of competing solvers, and into convincing potential customers that their results can be trusted. Sometimes they must even convince a customer to start doing CAE! In contrast, the benefits of EnSight can be seen very easily. It is relatively easy for our potential customers, who are already CAE users, to see that EnSight is faster, more interactive, has better graphics, and has more features than anything they have used before. This is one reason EnSight costs less than most CAE software, because we do not need to spend as many resources on sales. The other point is that software is inherently scaleable. Once it is written, it can be sold to millions of people, and as software specializes just as the world population increases, it will be more and more difficult for large CAE companies to compete with specialists in pre-processing, specialists in solving, and specialists in post-processing all at the same time.  Its the same reason that car companies outsource radios, windshields, even sometimes engines, transmissions, and whole cars, whereas in the early 1900s Henry Ford had completely centralized automotive manufacturing to the Rouge River plant in my home state of Michigan.

Wang yang: Many enterprises in the application of CAE tools, will choose different types of CAE software at the same time. Therefore, in addition to use Ensight, they may also use other CAE software, then where do you think Ensight's advantages are?
Aric Meyer: In fact, without other CAE tools, EnSight cannot be used at all! Since we post process simulation results, the pre-processing and computation must be done by other software packages, though these do not need to be commercial codes. Many researchers use EnSight with their in-house codes. We therefore have developed long-term partnerships with many software companies. Since all commercial solvers include their own post-processors, we must be much better than the 'default' post-processors or we simply couldn’t survive in the market. Because we can read data from so many different CAE solvers, the more different CAE tools a customer has, the better it is for us. We can offer a standard, high-quality post-processing platform for all of their simulation. And because we can read the different CAE data at the same time we are well positioned for comparison studies between CAE solvers, transitions between CAE solvers, coupling between CAE solvers, and standardizing the post-processing for companies that use multiple CAE solvers.

Wang yang: I noticed in China market, some distributors also are promoting EnSight products, such as Beijing Vision Strategy, Cybernet China, and Adina China. So, please tell us about CEI's marketing model?
Aric Meyer: CEI entered the China market through our first distributor in 2005.  Through those years it was difficult, from the US, to maintain close contact with our distributors here, and throughout Asia, so we had a very hands-off approach to marketing. Each distributor did what they thought best. Our marketing model is still being developed, but it includes my CEI office in Shanghai as a resource for finding, developing, and supporting partners throughout the Asia-Pacific region. 

Wang yang: EnSight is a visualization and post-processing software, please tell us about the industries it applys to. What are the requirements for engineers?
Aric Meyer: EnSight really has no limitations on industry. As with other CAE companies, much of our business is related to aerospace and automotive, but that is mostly due to the size of the market. Solvers must have codes which are specialized for solving certain types of problems, so you will see them focusing on a few industries where their codes are most suitable. Once the results are generated, however, they are all pretty much the same. There is a mesh with scalar, vector, and tensor variables. EnSight is used in pretty much every industry that uses CAE. We are used to visualize supernovae, and to design diapers.

Wang yang: CEI doesn’t have a big number of staff around the world, how to ensure that investment in R & D to continuously improve the level and version of software updates?
Aric Meyer: First, we dedicate a large portion of our resources to product development, more than to marketing and sales. Also, we serve very high-end customers. The requirements of the national laboratories in the United States, which are our largest customers, are years ahead of any commercial enterprises. By the time companies have these high-end needs, we are ready and waiting for them. I should also point out that CEI is a great company to work for. We are       employee-owned, and everyone is highly motivated. Many of our developers have worked on EnSight for 10 years or more, so they know the product and the industry well, and we do not need to spend time continually training new developers. And the internet is also a great equalizer, allowing a very visual product like EnSight to be well known around the world without requiring a massive salesforce of 100's of people as was true in the 1970s and 1980s.

Wang yang: Which stage of research and development is Ensight mainly used in? How does EnSight help these enterprises to enhance their R & D level?
Aric Meyer: We are used wherever other CAE tools are used. Depending on the enterprise this could be in the research, design, and testing stages. Many companies are taking efforts to make CAE a larger part of the design process, and for CAE to influence the design process at earlier stages. EnSight can help with that, by helping CAE engineers better communicate with design engineers, and even non-engineers. At more mature customer sites EnSight is used more in the design stage, because it is used in batch along with batch runs of the CAE solver. There are many other ways EnSight can help. One very common way is by efficiently processing large data sets we save much engineering time and hardware costs. For example, recently an F1 racing team sped up their post-processing time 40x by switching to EnSight.

Wang yang: What customers does CEI currently have in China? Please give one or two simple cases.
Aric Meyer: Most of our customers in China use EnSight for virtual reality applications. This is partly due to the strength of the VR industry in China relative to the general CAE market, and also because VR was the strong point of our first distributors here. I am currently working with a group at Shanghai Jiaotong University to make the most out of their ship design simulations. Our distributor Beijing Vision Strategy is working in a similar way with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to show their space weather simulations to non-scientists. We also have customers in defense, automotive, and rail.

Wang yang: Please tell us about EnSight's development prospect in the next few years? And what development is expected in the Chinese market?
Aric Meyer: We will keep adding new features to EnSight based on our customers'requests and the needs of the market. One focus right now is to make EnSight more appealing to a broader range of engineers. One example of how we are doing this is our new product called 'EnSight CFD'. In EnSight CFD we have taken the most important features of EnSight for CFD analysis and made them extremely accessible.
In China we have already created a Chinese language website. The next release of EnSight CFD in June will include the first ever multi-language version of EnSight, which will have English and Chinese support. The free 3D viewer 'Reveal', for easy sharing of results, will also have a Chinese version.

About CEI
Computational Engineering International (CEI) develops cutting-edge post-processing, visualization and animation software. CEI's flagship product is EnSight.
EnSight is available in versions running from laptops to supercomputers.  There is a suitable version for everyone.
CEI was founded in 1994, 2009 is our 15 year anniversary, and strives to continually provide newer, increasingly powerful and more accessible solutions for many different industries. We are a privately held organization with steady fiscal growth boasting more than 700 customers and 1,500 software seats worldwide.

Editor: Sophie Shi  ss@e-works.net.cn

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